Keeping the Link: Outstanding Service to Vassar

By Ashley Wilkins '03

Eugenie Aiguier Havemeyer '51 has trouble playing favorites. When it comes to her volunteer work, choosing which activity holds the most importance or provides the most satisfaction proves to be a difficult task. Perhaps the problem is that she's done so much, a problem that has resulted in being given AAVC's annual Award for Outstanding Service to Vassar College.

Havemeyer has been contributing to the Vassar community for over 50 years, from her days as an undergraduate to her current position with the President's Advisory Council. In 1958 Havemeyer acted as reunion chairman of her class, an event which she sees as an integral part of life after Vassar. “[Reunions] are the things that keep us bonded together.” In that spirit Havemeyer was elected president of the class of 1951 in time for their 50th reunion, in 1996.“What a joy to serve my class as president,” she said. “Being able to serve them for five years was perhaps the most rewarding experience I've ever had. Making us all feel and know that we're together, that we care about each other. We had a very strong class then and we have a very strong class now.”

In 1958 Havemeyer became involved with the Vassar Club of New York as the Chairman of the Prospective Students Committee. She soon went on to become the director and an Alumnae Council representative during her six-year service. This position allowed her to become involved with older alumnae, some with graduation dates peppering the 19th century. “We had so much in common,” said Havemeyer. “People were activists, suffragettes, feministsÑ nothing has changed. The student body at Vassar has always been whirling and controversial. It was wonderful, if you could handle it.”

And handle it she did, with grace and fortitude, going on to serve with a variety of organizations on numerous boards and committees. From 1967-1973 she acted as treasurer and as a director for the AAVC board. In 1979 she was elected as an AAVC trustee, the last person appointed to that position to serve an eight-year term. She continued for a four-year term as a VC trustee in 1991 for a total of 12 years of service. “Serving on the Vassar board was like home to me,” said Havemeyer. “It was wonderful.”

The Pyramid Society, an organization with the goal of keeping former trustees both in contact with one another and in touch with Vassar, was headed by Havemeyer from 1992-2000. Of her time as chair she says that, “it was a lot of fun to do. It was a time to be creative with how we kept in touch.”

Havemeyer is currently involved with the President's Advisory Council, an organization that started only two years ago with the mission of providing “a vehicle through which a representative group of Vassar alumnae/i, parents, and friends can engage with the president of the college and offer feedback on issues of pressing concern to the institution.” Havemeyer's years offer “a sense of perspective” to the group. “I sometimes feel that I am a part of living history,” she said.

The history of Vassar College has certainly been affected by her presence. In addition to all of the aforementioned activities, Havemeyer also has been chair of the Development Committee from '80-'83, served on the VC board as chair of the Nominating Committee from '86-'87, on the Executive Committee from '86-'87, and sat on the board of the Friends of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, among others.

Meg VenecekJohnson '84, the incoming chair of the AAVC Alumnae/i Awards Selection Committee said, “we give these awards for length, depth, and breadth of service, and Eugenie certainly fits the bill on all accounts, from trustee to fundraising thank you note writer, and she has been involved with Vassar virtually from the time she left.”

Upon hearing that she had received the Award for Outstanding Service to Vassar College, Havemeyer says that she was, “greatly honored. To me, Vassar is the most important institution I've ever served. I've been so fortunate. There are so many people who want to serve Vassar and somehow, I got to be one... I really feel it was a gift to me. How could I be so lucky?”